Juan Formell y Los Van Van - En El Malecón de La Habana: Concierto en Vivo
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Juan Formell y Los Van Van
En El Malecón de La Habana: Concierto en Vivo
Timba Records (www.termidor.com)

There's no mistaking the affirmative lyricism and double-time timba groove of Juan Formell y Los Van Van, Cuba's reigning dance band, which has brought its dynamic interpretation of island music to eager audiences worldwide since the late 1960s. Along the way, they have assimilated a universe of brassy and percussive jazz and Latin influences. As ever, on this live recording Formell plays bass and sings backing vocals, contributing six of nine songs as musical director of one of Cuba's longest-lived performing sensations. The ensemble steps out with an unapologetic, straight-ahead tribute to Weather Report ("Tim-Pop con Birdland"), setting the pace for a collective tour-de-force that quickly achieves cruising altitude and never eases until the reflective closing number, "El Sol Natural," which heads out with some gospel-tinged vocal harmonies reminiscent of Sweet Honey in the Rock. Clearly, the objective is not to break new ground here, but to celebrate the trademark sound of Cuba's most popular working band, and one more time, to levitate the dancing vanvanista faithful to higher ground. - Michael Stone


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